Marco Polo – The Great Traveler and Merchant

Marco Polo Mosaic

On September 15, 1254, the Venetian merchant traveler Marco Polo was born. He is best known for his journeys to Central Asia and China, narrated in the book ‘The Travels of Marco Polo‘.

Marco Polo directly followed his father’s footsteps, who was a well known traveling merchant himself. The journey of Marco’s father Niccolò and his brother Maffeo took many years, but it was worth it,  they came back with a tremendous amount of treasures an lots of experience concerning the eastern world.

It was in 1266, when they arrived in China. They decided to settle in the Mongolian empire of Kublai Khan, a grandson of the famous Dschingis Khan. Kublai Khan had never met any Europeans before and was absolutely curious about their culture and technlogies.  The men had to deliver a letter to the Pope, claiming 100 Europeans, who were familiar with grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy, also called the seven arts.  After their arrival back in Venice, they had difficulties, delivering the Pope’s letter, because Pope Clement IV had passed away and it took a long time before a new Pope was elected.

But this was the first time, when Marco had the chance to meet his father and he was immediately intrigued by the cultures and treasures far-off horizons.

Marco, who had learned everything he needed in order to being a great merchant, like foreign currency or the handling of cargo ships early, was now able to join his father’s travels. They departed for Asia and arrived in China through many detours when Marco Polo was 21 years old. They remained there until 1291 right before China’s troubled times. Kublai Khan did not let them go voluntarily before accomplishing the task to guide a princess to Persian overseas. Finally, they could leave and it took almost four years until they arrived back home in Venice.

Marco Polo, who had written down his experiences during all adventures, caused discussions between many scientists up to this very day, arguing about the authenticity of his stories. Marco Polo missed out a lot of details he must have experienced, as e.g. the Great Wall of China, and advanced technologies such as the printing press and gun powder. Its also a myth that Marco Polo should be responsible for introducing Pasta from China to Italy. Besides Pizza, Pasta is one of Italy’s national dishes today, and there is strong evidence that Pasta was already in use in ancient Rome.

At Yovisto you can enjoy a video about “Marco Polo: Silk Road to China” with the biographer and historian Larry Bergreen.

References and further Reading:

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